“She went method with the hair and no makeup,” says filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee, director of the Oscar-winning “Dallas Buyers Club” said last year of Reese Witherspoon. “We wanted to see Reese out there, not vain at all, not concerned with her image, and she went for it. Wait until you see her in the film. It’s a new Reese.” Vallee is talking about his upcoming survival drama “Wild,” and as you can tell by the aforementioned quote, it shows a distinctly different side of Witherspoon that we haven’t seen in a long time.
It’s hard not to be slightly cynical about the project. Witherspoon got undue, ugly attention for her drunken arrest in April 2013 and then a two months later it was announced that Fox Searchlight was boarding the project. It didn’t help that the actress hadn’t taken on a serious acting role in several years, mostly starring in fluff and then just weeks after her notorious arrest, she was signing up to serious filmmaking projects left and right (see May 3: “Passengers” and “Depth Of Field,” May 6: a return to her “Walk The Line” director James Mangold, May 15: PTA’s “Inherent Vice” etc).
It’s a pessimistic view obviously, but after years of paycheck gigs, it’s hard not to see all those announcements (at least two of which she eventually brushed off) as an asserted campaign to change the narrative and put the focus on what mattered to her PR people: she’s an actress. But remember “Walk The Line” (which won her a well-deserved Academy Award) or “Election”? Hell, even “Legally Blonde” was a great performance for what it was, but aside from “Mud” there hadn’t been a serious role in a while.
It seems that’s all about to change with “Wild,” Valle’s much-anticipated “Dallas Buyers Club” follow-up. The film was written by Nick Hornby, has an Oscar-friendly December 5th release date and the new trailer points to something with some heft. The movie co-stars Gaby Hoffmann, Laura Dern, Michiel Huisman, Charles Baker, Kevin Rankin, Thomas Sadoski, but looks more like a one-woman show ala another survival narrative “127 Hours.”
Fox Searchlight will definitely be chasing gold with this one and intentions, pure or not, we’re just happy to see the Oscar-winner giving it a go again. Watch the trailer below and check out the new poster too.